Joanna Piotrowska – Entre nous

Exhibition from February16th to May 21st, 2023
  • Joanna Piotrowska, Sans titre, 2015, 21 x 27 cm, tirage gélatino argentique © Joanna Piotrowska, courtesy de l’artiste et Galerie Madragoa, Lisbonne

  • Marc Domage

  • Joanna Piotrowska, Sans titre, 2017, 95 x120cm, tirage gélatino argentique © Joanna Piotrowska, courtesy de l’artiste et Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

  • Marc Domage

  • Joanna Piotrowska, Sans titre, 2022, 130 x 160cm, tirage gélatino argentique © Joanna Piotrowska,courtesy de l’artiste et Phillida Reid, Londres

  • Marc Domage

From February 16th, LE BAL presents the first solo exhibition in France dedicated to the Polish artist Joanna Piotrowska. Her work has been highlighted at the last Venice Biennale and she was the recipient of the Lewis Baltz Research Fund (2018) initiated by LE BAL. For the past ten years, she is developing a visual world at the crossroads of photography and performance: examinating  the complex and ambiguous relationships within the familial structure, and aims a mirror at society.

Coming face to face with the work of young Polish artist Joanna Piotrowska, presented for the first time in France, inevitably calls up an experience of constraint. From these photographs and videos there emanates an atmosphere of confinement and muted violence. We see tensed-up bodies in artificial postures set in domestic interiors, shaky shelters cobbled together by adults inside their own homes, gestures toward off invisible enemies, but also zoo cages deserted by their occupants. What words cannot express, Piotrowska's deliberate, meticulously composed movements and poses turn into an unusual, body language, at once strange and disturbing.

Her reenactments of gestures in the family space function here as a mirror of society: potentially a locus of tenderness but also of control, of emancipation but also oppression. A host of systems of domination come together to the point of shaping body movements and relationships. Her first series, Frowst, begun in 2014, recreates an odd family album inspired by group therapy practices. These images of weirdly intertwined bodies whose dividing line between embrace and constraint is no longer so clear, drive home the ambiguity that pervades all her work.

When her gaze falls on zoo animal cages and enclosures, emptied of their inhabitants, and in particular the toys and objects used to "enrich" their lives in, an obvious parallel is drawn with the human domestic space, only further underlining the dichotomy at work between protection and oppression. Just as everything in her work seems to hinge on context, Piotrowska's latest series, premiering at LE BAL, takes a look at her own past, her own history. Coming upon the negatives of images taken by her father a few years before she was born, she developed a protocol using a telephoto lens to sample details from the found photographic material. The enlargements of objects seem to be the clues, the blurred markers, of her own failing memory.

In this exploration of intimacy, the human and social determinants of an era come together. Yet, while everything seems to be distancing us from a work of realism, is Joanna Piotrowska not creating what the philosopher and critic G. Lukács termed a "relative, incomplete image [...] of life itself, in an enhanced, intensified form, more alive than in reality"?

— Julie Héraut and Diane Dufour

« It is important for me to create such connections and move from animal to human, from human to house, from house to cage, from cage to shelter, safety, intimacy, touch.  »
– Joanna Piotrowska

Curators : Diane Dufour et Julie Héraut.

The exhibition and publication have been supported by Fluxus Art Projects.
The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Phillida Reid Gallery, London, Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne and Galeria Madragoa, Lisbon.
Le BAL's program is supported by la Ville de Paris and Région Île-de-France.

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